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THE    CHINESE    MIND                       89

whether it is true or not, but "so people say/* and he is not
interested in undertaking a research to verify it. It is a state
of mind that belongs to the borderland of truth and fiction,
where truth and fiction are pleasurably and poetically mixed,
as in a dreamer's tale.


This naivete we must try to understand, for it brings us to the
world of the Chinese imagination and Chinese religion. By
religion, I mean a good heaven and a hot hell and real, living
spirits, and not the "kingdom . . . within you" of the Boston
Unitarians, or the belief in the impersonal and amorphous
"Power in and around us, which makes for righteousness" of
Matthew Arnold.

This world of the imagination is not confined to the illiterate.
Confucius himself exhibited a certain naweti regarding the
spirits when he said, "If one were to try to please the god of
the south-west corner of the house, it would be preferable to
try to please the god of the kitchen stove." He spoke of the
spirits with an ease of mind which was truly charming: "Offer
sacrifices to the spirits as if the spirits were present," and
"Respect the spirits, but keep them at a distance." He was
willing to let the spirits exist if they would let him go his own

Han Yii, the great Confucianist of the T'ang Dynasty,
continued this naive attitude. He was officially reprimanded
and compelled to go to the neighbourhood of modern Swatow
to serve as a magistrate, and when this district was suffering
from an invasion of crocodiles, he wrote a high-flown sacrificial
appeal to the crocodiles. The crocodiles seemed to appre-
ciate his literary style (for he was one of the best writers in
China's history), and, according to his own testimony, they
disappeared from the district. It would be futile to ask if he
sincerely believed in it or not. To ask that question is com-
pletely to misunderstand the situation, for his reply would
most probably be: How can I know it is true, but how can
you know it is untrue? It was an agnosticism which openly